For his masters thesis, Georgia Tech student Edward Macdonald used 15 Khepera robots to spell out the word “grits.” Now, this may not seem very impressive, but each robot was moving autonomously and did not communicate with the other robots. The goal was for the robots to make independent decisions based off the same information. In Macdonald’s demonstration, the robots only had access to visual information broadcast via WiFi from a bird’s eye camera.
On the intent behind his work, Macdonald writes:
The goal of the algorithm is to have a network of mobile robots build formations while minimizing the total distance traveled by all robots. The only information available to each robot are the relative positions of all other robots. There is no communication between robots. Since each robot has access to the same information (relative positions between robots), they independently come to the same conclusion.
Even more impressive is that the robots self-correct. If one robot is removed from the formation, the others move to fill the gap, and will readjust when it is reintroduced. Will these plucky robots manage to spell out the name of a popular breakfast food? Keep reading after the break to find out.
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